Illustration: Midwest Furfest ’17

Midwest Furfest Art Print Designs


Midwest Furry Fandom LLC runs what is now the world’s largest “furry” convention each year in early December. The convention attracts a wonderful assortment of talented artists, costumers, dancers, musicians, animators and more who are fans of anthropomorphic animals or other fantasy creatures.

Like many conventions, MFF chooses a theme each year which attendees can voluntarily design their art, costumes and other activities around. The 2017 theme was Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

I was a regular attendee of MFF during my time in Chicago, and it easily became my favorite convention. They reached out to me in September of 2017 to create some art that would be seen by their 8,000+ attendees. Being chosen as the artist to design the 2017 shirt, logo, and two print designs was an honor.


Note: The same research notes below apply to all four art pieces commissioned by Midwest Furry Fandom. Skip to details on the ART if you’re already read them.

Grimm’s Fairy Tales was a classic and enjoyable theme to create art around. Although well-known, I still wanted to do some research before getting started.

Reviewing Grimm’s Fairy Tales

I refreshed my memory on Grimm’s Fairy tales and was surprised to learn just how many they had written.

It’s well known that the tales are more gruesome than we were told as children. As much as darker themes intrigue me, I tried to keep in mind that due to the December timing of the convention, many fans regard it as “the Christmas con,” so my art would have to lean more mysterious than evil or spooky.

I narrowed my search for the most popular and well-known tales; While there are a lot of tales featuring animal characters, not everyone would be familiar with Grimm’s lesser-known stories. I wanted the logo to be instantly recognizable and something that can be enjoyed at the convention and after it.

Among the top-known tales, these stood out to me as appropriate for MFF:

  • Little Red Riding Hood (as was already shown on the MFF site)
  • Sleepy Beauty
  • Snow White (and the Seven Dwarfs)
  • Rapunzel
  • Rumpelstiltskin
  • Hansel and Gretel
  • Puss in Boots
  • Cinderella
  • Pied Piper

Making Grimm recognizable for MFF attendees

Having done my research and picked out the best tales for MFF, I noted down symbols or iconic creatures and things from these stories that I could incorporate into my art.

The Big Bad Wolf was of course the most iconic and perfect for an anthropormophic-themed convention, but this was already used in the website and other promotional materials.

Puss in Boots, made popular again by the recent Dreamworks franchise, would work very well.

Other symbols that MFF attendees were likely to recognize from Disney and other’s interpretations of Grimm’s Tales:

  • Snow White’s poisoned apple
  • Cinderella’s glass slipper
  • Rapunzel’s long hair
  • Rumpelstiltskin’s spindle, or gold thread and straw
  • Hansel and Gretel’s candy house

Client’s parameters for the art print designs

MFF runs a variety show each year, and participants are awarded a certificate for their participation. The certificate has various detailed printed on it, and original artwork themed for the convention is included as decoration.

There were no particular specifications for the certificate art other than having two characters on a plain/transparent background.

The convention also offers a Sponsor badge tier, which comes with bonus perks such as an exclusive dinner with the guests of honor. A ticket to attend this dinner is given in the Sponsor package, on which is printed artwork themed for the convention.

The sponsor ticket art needed to fit at least four to a standard 8.5 x 11” sized paper.

The art needed to fit the Grimm’s Fairy Tale 2017 convention theme.

My Illustration process

Concept Thumbnails

I offered to show MFF two thumbnails per each requested piece, and let them choose which concept they preferred.

The variety show certificate would include two characters on a plain background. Using my prior research, I decided on having Puss n’ Boots as one of the characters, and added in an interpretation of Rumplestiltskin as his counter-part.

For the other variety show certificate concept, I realized that while the shirt and logo design creatures could arguably be seen as androgynous, in a fandom and event that celebrates diversity, I should give the opportunity for some more female or female-looking characters to be represented. Thanks to Disney, Grimm female characters such as Cinderella and Rapunzel were already instantly recognizable, so they made perfect subjects for the second concept. Wolves, foxes and other canine creatures are heavily represented at MFF, so I chose a horse and a swan to push for something different.

For the Sponsor Dinner ticket, I leaned on Grimm references that were tied to food. Little Red Riding hood, who was in the woods to deliver food to her grandmother, and Hanzel and Gretel, who found a house made of food, were perfect subjects.

I aligned the ticket vertically for the Little Red Riding Hood concept. I gave ample space for whatever text was needed.

I aligned the ticket horizontally for the Hanzel drawing and made the house in the woods the main focus. Hanzel would be following a bread crumb trail leading up to the house, with plenty of space above over the woods for text.

Chosen concept

The art director loved the Cinderella and Rapunzel drawing for the variety show certificate, and the raccoon Hanzel for the sponsor dinner ticket.

Art process

I collect reference photos as often as I can, and being a fan of fantasy and medieval themes, I had a large collection of photos from the Landshut Wedding festival in Germany. Hundreds of people get together every four years to re-enact a wedding from this period, down to different classes of society and the clothes they would wear. I was able to draw influence from the noble ladies and their wedding gowns for Rapunzel and Cinderella, and to draw influence from the minstrels, cooks and errand boys for Hanzel.

I used the same color palette from the shirt design for the variety show certificate and the sponsor dinner ticket. Since MFF commissioned four pieces from me for use as official convention art, I felt these pieces would benefit from a unified color scheme.

When working on the Hanzel piece, I wanted the cabin in the woods to be the focal point. I kept a filter for values at the top of my work to reference frequently.

Final Result

The two resulting pieces enhanced the Grimm’s Fairy Tales theme for the convention and made for fun collectables for sponsors and variety show participants to whom they were gifted.